May 20, 2023
Proliferation of modified weapons cause for alarm, officials say
By Norah O'Donnell April 27, 2023 / 7:45 PM / CBS News Washington – On its own, a Glock 17 is legal. But, a simple device can suddenly make it exponentially more dangerous and illegal. "So these are
By Norah O'Donnell
April 27, 2023 / 7:45 PM / CBS News
Washington – On its own, a Glock 17 is legal. But, a simple device can suddenly make it exponentially more dangerous and illegal.
"So these are actually referred to as machine gun conversion devices," technician Nick Campbell with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives explained to CBS News at an ATF lab in Washington, D.C. "You can see some of these are mass-produced, metallic made. And then some of these are additive materials, 3D printed. And this is what you'll hear referred to as a switch."
The conversion devices are small and inexpensive. They cost as little as $20 but can change a handgun to fire 15 rounds in under two seconds. And these modified weapons are becoming more common, officials said.
"We're seeing them with a degree of regularity, about 50% more than we saw last year," said Metropolitan Police Department Cmdr. LaShay Makal, who previously ran the department's gun recovery unit, but now oversees the Seventh District.
Makal said modified guns "increases the likelihood that we're going to encounter multiple victims when these are used. And also, in those singular victim incidents, it increases the likelihood that those incidents will be fatal."
The ATF has seen a 570% increase nationwide of seized modified weapons over the past five years. Last month, Metropolitan police recovered a 3D printer making illegal weapon parts.
"I think we understand, as a police department that, you know, this is a nationwide issue," Makal said. "We understand that we can't arrest our way out of this. We need assistance."
Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee, who announced Wednesday that he is leaving the department to join the FBI, believes the justice ecosystem needs an overhaul in order to keep illegal guns from causing more harm.
"It's something that's on my mind every day, while we're sitting here," Contee said of the nation's mass shooting crisis. "You take one person with one firearm that's capable of shooting 100 rounds of ammunition very rapidly in a short period of time. That can happen anywhere at any time. And we see these … converter switches that are able to convert semi-automatic firearms into fully automatic firearms, those are the things that keep me up at night."
Norah O'Donnell is the anchor and managing editor of the "CBS Evening News." She also contributes to "60 Minutes."
First published on April 27, 2023 / 7:45 PM
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